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Affordable Housing Linked to Children’s Brainpower, Study Says

The amount of money low-income families spend for housing affects their children’s cognitive ability, with too little or too much having a negative impact, a study from Johns Hopkins University showed.

Children’s reading and math ability suffer when families spend more than half of or less than 20 percent of their income on housing, researchers at Baltimore, Maryland-based Johns Hopkins said last week, adding that 30 percent of income is an optimal amount.

The study underlines the importance of affordable housing for families with children, the researchers said. Families that spend most of their money on housing have less to pay for educational enrichments like books and computers necessary for children’s development, the study showed, while those that spend too little risk putting their children in an unhealthy environment.

“Rather than finding a bargain in a good neighborhood, they’re living in low-quality housing with spillover effects on their children’s development,” Sandra Newman, a Johns Hopkins professor of policy studies and one of the study’s co-authors, said in the report.

Families that cut their spending to 30 percent from more than half their income spent an average of $98 more on their children per month.

“Not a lot of money, but enough to make a difference,” according to the report.

The study focused on families with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Housing costs had no effect on children’s physical or social well-being, the research showed.

“People are making trade-offs, and those trade-offs have implications for their children,” co-author C. Scott Holupka said in the report.

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